Other Worlds: Rare Astronomical Works

Uploaded by HarryRansomCenter on 08.09.2009

Hemenway: The international year of astronomy for 2009
is a collaboration of UNESCO and the International Astronomical Union.
The year 2009 was chosen because it's the 400th anniversary of Galileo
first using the telescope to look at the heavens.
It's also the 400th anniversary of Johannes Kepler's
publishing his first two laws of planetary motion.
So we have an observational landmark in astronomy
and we have a mathematical landmark in astronomy,
in a way showing the two different extents of doing astronomy.
For the Ransom Center, which has such a wonderful
collection of historic astronomical works,
it's a chance for them to show off these assets.
Astronomy was one of the very first sciences.
People, probably at the caveman era paid attention
to what was in the night sky and how they moved.
It's the basis of all calendar-making
and keeping track of the seasons, knowing when to plant.
And eventually for the ancient civilizations,
having ceremonies and religious significance to the different dates.
Some of the things in the exhibit will go back to looking at
these historical roots of mankind's first look at doing science.
Astronomers now work mostly at universities.
But in the era of many items of the collection, they were privately funded.
And one of the examples of this type of funding was Tycho Brahe,
who had his own observatory and made all his own instruments, wrote books, did calculations,
tried to forward his own theory of what our universe was like.
His theory was wrong, but his observations were excellent.
He was observing in the era before telescopes, so these were all with the unaided eye.
We have a 1515 copy of Ptolemy's Almagest, this was written around 140 AD,
but not translated and printed until 1515.
This is probably the edition that Nicolaus Copernicus used
when he was making his landmark book,
On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres,
which said that, contrary to popular belief,
it was the earth that went around the sun, and not the sun that went around the earth.
I hope the people coming to the exhibition will gain a sense of history
and of their place in the universe, of looking at how really hard it
was for us to figure out that something as
counterintuitive as the earth moving around the sun happens.
We go outside, we see the sun rise, we see the sun set,
it looks like we're the center of everything,
but it took centuries for people to figure out, that there's other things
happening in the universe and we are not the center of everything.